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Thursday, May 23, 2024
Midwest Horse Fair April 19, 2024-2.jpg
Eight horses pull a carriage at the Midwest Horse Fair at the Alliant Energy Center on April 19, 2024.

Didn’t attend the Midwest Horse Fair? Here’s what you missed from the mane events

The 44th Annual Midwest Horse Fair was held at the Alliant Energy Center, providing attendees with shopping, educational opportunities and displays of expert horseback riding.

The 44th annual Midwest Horse Fair took place at the Alliant Energy Center on April 19-21, bringing together seasoned horse professionals and spectators for a jam-packed weekend of events. 

The fair started in 1979 and draws more than 62,000 visitors each year, many of whom travel from across the Midwest to attend one of the largest three-day equestrian events in the United States. 

Upon walking into the fair,  an array of food truck vendors and countless different activities greet visitors of all ages. From a children’s petting zoo to horse-drawn carriage rides to an equine Career Exploration Forum, both dedicated horse lovers and less-seasoned newcomers have plenty of opportunities to be entertained. 

For some attendees, the extensive amount of information about various horses and specialized groups is the most anticipated aspect of the fair. 

“I love all of the exhibits they have here in the coliseum during the day,” fair attendee Kristine Pehler told The Daily Cardinal. “They feature all the different breeds, and they have drill teams and different clubs. It’s really interesting.” 

For Pehler’s daughter, Annassa Pehler, shopping was the best part of the fair. “I bought a bunch of tack and clothes so far,” Annassa Pehler said. 

Laughing, Kristine Pehler couldn’t help but agree, noting that the horse fair was her and Annassa’s “biggest shopping event of the year.” 

It is not hard to see why the lure of new merchandise would be so strong. The Midwest Horse Fair enlists over 500 vendors for the weekend.

For other attendees, the sake of tradition keeps them coming back each year.

Madison resident Breliegh Detweiler is one such attendee who has a special connection to the annual horse fair. 

“I’ve been going with my grandma for a few years now,” Detweiler said. “She’s been going since the late 70s, so she brought me. Her neighbors got her into it, and they’re the ones that brought her first when she was 17.” 

The fair’s largest event of the weekend is the evening rodeo show, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night. 

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The rodeo features seven main events, including bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding. 

Competitors reign from local areas of Wisconsin all the way to parts of Tennessee, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri and beyond, announcer Kelly Kenney told Friday’s rodeo crowd. He said all take part in these highly difficult events to prove their abilities and to perhaps earn a check granted to the top three finishers.

Kenney was joined by his comedic other half, John Harrison, better known to the event’s viewers as the rodeo clown. 

“I really love the clown,” Detwiler said. “He's just really funny, and it’s been the same guy forever.” 

Jumping in and out of the arena, Harrison engaged extensively with the audience, challenging them to name the song playing out loud and trying on their bedazzled denim jackets. 

Harrison and Kenney’s back-and-forth interactions alongside the dramatic and precise horsemanship acts, made for an entertaining final event. 

The Midwest Horse Fair will return to Madison in April 2025.

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